North Florida posts new records in series with Kennesaw; Ospreys clean up with post-season accolades

Joslyn Simmons

Video shot and edited by Patrick Lloyd

With the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament on the horizon, the UNF Ospreys (42-14, 16-4) grabbed two wins this past week against the Kennesaw State Owls (28-26, 10-10) in the last three-game series of the regular season.

On May 14, the Ospreys came back to win 2-1 behind a two-run homer in the third inning by Donnie Dewees’ two-run homer in the third inning. This was his 16th home run for the season. North Florida denied an attempted Kennesaw rally in the top of the seventh inning with a double play. With this 41st victory of the season, the Ospreys set a new Division I era record for most wins in a single season. Dewees went 3-for-4 on the night prolonging the nation’s longest active hitting streak to 30 games.

Kal Simmons (10) from Kennesaw State hits the ball into the outfield.Photo by Morgan Purvis
Kal Simmons (10) from Kennesaw State hits the ball into the outfield.
Photo by Morgan Purvis

The following day, Dewees was named a semifinalist for the 2015 Dick Howser Trophy, which the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association gives out annually to the top player in collegiate baseball.

In the second game on May 15, trailing by one run in the bottom of the ninth, UNF sealed a 5-4 victory with Trent Higginbothem’s walk off home run. Higginbothem went 2-for-4 on the night with one scored run and two RBIs. With this victory, the Ospreys won their 14th consecutive game setting yet another school-record for the series.

In the regular season finale on May 16, the Ospreys fell to the Owls 2-1, snapping the winning streak on senior day. In the top of the ninth inning, with just one out, Kennesaw’s left fielder Alex Liquori sent Chris Erwin sliding into home plate from third base to clinch the lead at 2-1. The Ospreys were unable to find any success in the bottom of the ninth frame, going four up, three down to end the game in favor of the Owls.

In addition to the new records and overall success UNF had this season, the post-regular season accolades have come in and UNF is shining brightly.

North Florida’s Head Coach Smoke Laval was awarded the Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year honors, while the latest Osprey sensation, Dewees, captured the league’s Player of the Year award, to no surprise by anybody who has been following this team since February.

Laval is no stranger to the spot light. While this is the first time he has been given the nod here in the A-Sun, he was previously recognized by both the Southland and the Southeastern conferences as Coach of the Year.

Dewees was unanimously chosen as the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year. He has led the league in almost every single offensive category with a .437 batting average, 17 home runs and a remarkable 66 RBIs. Dewees will be entering the A-Sun Tournament tomorrow as the national leader in runs (81), runs per game (1.51), hits (101) and total bases (178). In addition to those notches he achieved the nation’s longest hitting streak at 31 consecutive games.

The team gets high fives as they come in from an inning.Photo by Morgan Purvis
The team gets high fives as they come in from an inning.
Photo by Morgan Purvis

But the rounds of applause don’t stop there. North Florida had a total of three players chosen for the Atlantic Sun First Team All-Conference. Third baseman Trent Higginbothem, designated hitter Corbin Olmstead and Dewees were all unanimously chosen.

Higginbothem picked up his first team honor for the second-straight season. He had 61 RBIs, 49 scored runs and 7 home runs. In just two seasons he has driven in a blistering 111 runs.

Olmstead also picked up his second-straight first team honor. He put up 12 home runs this season, which was second best in the conference behind fellow teammate, Dewees. The designated hitter is a bit on an anomaly though, as his other position was a relief pitcher.  Olmstead also picked up Atlantic Sun First Team All-Conference honors as a relief pitcher, becoming the first player to earn that accolade for two separate positions. He currently leads the Osprey bullpen with 46 strikeouts.

The Ospreys are the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, which is being hosted by Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida.

On May 20 at 11 a.m. the Ospreys will once again face off against the Owls, who are seeded at No. 6 in the double-elimination style tournament.

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